Sunday, October 23, 2011

Vegan Home Brew: Part 1, The Wort

I got my shit together and completed the first step of my first batch of home-brewed beer. As I mentioned in an earlier post, several of my dearest friends got together and bought me an avalanche of beer brewing equipment. The only missing ingredient was... ingredients. For that, I went to the closest home brewing supply shop, San Francisco Brew Craft. The place was smaller than I expected, and I instantly found myself in front of the hirsute dude working behind the counter. He greeted me with, "hey, what's up?" and before I finished explaining that I needed ingredients he'd already started filling out a hot pink "Beer Recipe and Brewing Instructions" sheet. I told him I was thinking about a pale ale a little less hoppy than Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. He scribbled a couple more things on the sheet and started shoveling ingredients from bulk containers around the shop. This was a pleasant surprise, as I had expected to be handed a dense box of pre-selected ingredients. Instead, I was getting a customized set of ingredients and brewing instructions! I was out of there in under 15 minutes, a mere $42 poorer.

I had prepared for Brew Day by reading SF Brewcraft's brewing instructions and the first chapter of "How To Brew," which came with my brewing supplies. I also watched Homebrew Heaven's awesome "Getting Started Homebrewing" DVD, wherein Chris and Don demonstrate the rudiments of brewing and bottling your own beer. (I watched this video repeatedly, mostly for my fascination of the cheap porn production quality.) Finally, I talked to my good friend and brewing veteran Dave for reinforcement.

Despite all this preparation, the whole process seemed to take all day. It took forever to heat the wort, and then to bring it to a boil after adding the malt extract. Then it took forever to cool it down to "pitching" temperature, which was a little higher than ideal due to my impatience. Consequently, I rehydrated my yeast about an hour too soon, but assured myself that yeast is a hearty little organism and wouldn't mind waiting for all the delicious sugar I was about to feed it. When I pounded the lid on the fermenter and stuck the airlock into its hole I really had no idea if I had succeeded. I had to wait for a couple days to know for sure.

And man, did I succeed! The airlock was bubbling along happily in the second and third days (see the video!), and calmed down toward the end of the week. The beginning of the week enjoyed ridiculously hot weather (high 70s!), so the beer didn't hit ideal fermenting temperatures for a couple days. I left it near an open window with a temperature-activated fan to keep things between 68 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. I'm pretty confident that this is going to turn out well.

Next episode: Secondary Fermentation.


  1. Wow~I have friends who home brew and I can see it's really for process oriented folks. I would totally mess this up ;)

  2. You wrote well on this blog, and it seems you've joined Mofo this year. You should write again!

    1. Thanks! Almost 5 years to the day :)


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